Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from the mid-15th century until the mid-20th century when offset printing was developed, however it has seen a revival as an artistic form in the past twenty to thirty years. Art students in Mr. Chris Enz’s art classes at Northwest High School are learning about letterpress printing through a unique Artist-in-Residency Program and they are actually creating prints using this process. The South Central Ohio ESC Artist-in-Residency Program brought together local writer/filmmaker, Amanda Page, with graphic designer/letterpress expert, Darren Baker for a unique residency.
Amanda Page is a journalist, essayist, and documentary filmmaker from southern Ohio. Her work explores the various elements of place, how those elements create individual and collective identities, and how those identities contribute to an individual sense of belonging. She has written about community journalism, downtown architecture, and city slogans for outlets such as Belt Magazine and The Daily Yonder. Her film, Peerless City, which she co-directed with Pittsburgh filmmaker David Bernabo, premiered at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts in March, 2022, and is scheduled to screen at the Ohio History Connection and the Keith-Albee Theater. In 2020, she founded Scioto Literary, a nonprofit that serves writers and storytellers in Scioto and surrounding counties in the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Darren Baker is a Lecturer in studio art and graphic design in the School of Art & Design at Ohio University and Coordinator for the Ohio University Chillicothe campus art program. He is the former Director of Visual Arts at the Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center in Portsmouth, Ohio where he curated numerous permanent, solo and group exhibition. He has received grants from the Ohio Arts Council, the Ohio Humanities Council, Midwest Arts Alliance, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for Humanities, Ohio Museum Association and Ohio University. Additionally, he received funding from the John and Betty Hogden Foundation to study art, architecture, design and poetry in England, France and Italy. His international work continued with a consultation with Basler Papiermühle in 2018 and is investigating letterpress printing in Botswana and South Africa in 2021. Together with Don Adleta, he worked to build the new Don E Adleta Typeshop and Bindery in Seigfred Hall, a 900 square foot printshop dedicated to typography, letterpress and the handmade book. He is currently acting as manager and curator, actively collecting and expanding the collection of metal and wood type, press and other printing equipment.
While Page is working with the students on “short form place-based creative nonfiction writing”, Baker has them select meaningful phrases or words from their written work and turn them into printed broadsides (or posters). Students are learning the letterpress processes as they work to make collaborative pieces of art. A final presentation of the work will take place at Northwest High School on Monday, October 24, at 5:30 p.m.
The Artist-in-Residency is coordinated by Sharee Price, Gifted Services Coordinator at the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center. Sponsors for this residency include: William and Barbara Burke, Portsmouth Area Arts Council, Rotary Club of Portsmouth, Scioto Foundation, and SOMC. “The students are completely engaged in both the creative writing and letterpress processes. They are creating some amazing prints!” Price commented.